Wednesday, July 24, 2013

why do I blog? {summer is for reruns}

This post got quite a bit of attention.  It was in response to a super critical comment as well as a post on the blog of an adult adoptee about me.  After the initial "whoa", criticism can be a good thing.  It made me reflect on many things that have happened along the way as well as my convictions.  Even more, it made me realize that in trying to keep a good balance of "real" & some level of privacy, I hadn't shared enough of my heart.  While I may never get the opportunity to meet those that read my words or ever even hear from them, I hope that whatever I share at least makes readers feel like they have a sense of who I am.  And so, this post was born:

I've actually thought about this question quite a few times, even more over the last couple days. There's really no one answer. A friend encouraged me a few years back to start a blog b/c I have some experiences/testimonies to share. I have journaled for a long time, so this is a way for me to journal, too. It has also afforded me the opportunity to connect with others beyond those right next door to share experiences & learn a thing or two. In the back of my mind, though, I've always known there would come a day I would either make a mistake or tick somebody off with a personal decision.

Little did I know I'd manage to do both all at once. If you've taken time to ever read my profile, it states, "It's an imperfect world, I'm an imperfect person..." Case in point: In the last several days, I have had quite a few comments on my blog. Unfortunately, one of those comments was innappropriate in content, & I missed it. For that, I am very sorry and am glad that it was brought to my attention so that I could remove it.

I completely understood this person's anger at such a thing, but evidently, our choice to rename our son was equally disturbing to her, or actually, I believe the word was "disgusted". On that, we will have to agree to disagree, but I do hope you might hear my heart on this. We did not make this decision on a whim or based on satisfying some self-centered need. Just as things like circumcision are constantly hot topics, there really is no rule book with a right or wrong answer. Everyone tends to have a passionate opinion, but in the end, it's a personal decision. We know some that kept their child's given name in full; we know others that changed it completely, with no trace of anything from the original. After reading (& reading, & reading) articles, forums & anything else we came across about renaming an adopted child, we really felt "damned if you do; damned it you don't." If we had not given him a "K" name like his siblings, we could have been judged for making him feel left out. In the end, we tried to give him both. Through translators, both in Ethiopia & here, we were able to communicate about these possibilities, & in the end, he liked K'Tyo. And, no, I did not try to persuade him. Pa-leeeze....anyone that has hit the teen stage knows that if you try to make your kids' decisions for them knows, it will come back to bite you in the butt with, "But you made me..." Nope, not interested in goin' there.

But here's the thing. I followed the link to your blog & did a little reading. I think maybe you think you already know me. That maybe I'm full of "unicorn farts & rainbows as I'm out in the world "saving" children" by giving them the awesome opportunity to be adopted by me. Umm, no. I have written some posts about the journeys to our children b/c I am amazed that out of this whole big world, I get to know them, love them, & be part of their lives.


Here's the other side of the coin. In a perfect world, there would be no need for adoption. Children would be able to remain with their parents, & parents would be able to care for their children. Our outlook on adoption has never been & never will be to "save" a child, nor has it ever been a "Plan B". We don't believe in finding children for families, but families for children that are in need of one. I'm not looking for a child to fill some need in me to feel like I'm saving the world or to gain attention. If I wanted attention, I'd do something way easier. Parenting is hard; parenting children that will always have the pain of a missing piece is harder. Still too fluffy? Here's a few other things you don't know: You don't know that I held my little girl's mother in my arms time & again when no one else thought her "worthy" of anything, let alone respect & kindness. You don't know that at her request, I sat in on visits to make them easier on her. Many asked me "why?"..."Why would you make it easy for her? Why not let her get completely frustrated so she would just quit coming to visits?" Why? Because it was the right thing to do, and because I honor the fact that she is her mother, beyond the circumstances that prevented her from being able to function on a daily basis as such. You don't know that even though this was a termination of rights situation, I still choose to maintain contact with the family because it was never my hope that they would not be able to care for their daughter/niece/granddaughter so that I could adopt her & never look back. The goal of foster care is never adoption; that is the last resort.

You don't know that I desperately wanted to meet anyone from K'Tyo's extended family so that I could look them in the eye & promise to do my best on their behalf. You don't know that I have spent his two birthdays in our family overwhelmed with grief b/c I wonder if his mother died worrying for her son. I wonder if she ever got to see a birthday. As a mother, it makes my gut ache to think of leaving this earth & missing the chance to see my child grow up, let alone know if they would even be cared for. It sucks.

You don't know that I spent a long time with Kendi's mother on the phone when she was in the hospital, reiterating that I wanted her to make the decision that was best for HER...she owed us NOTHING. You don't know that I did not ask her for permission to go to the hospital because I did not want her to feel any pressure. You don't know that when she wanted to take the baby home for a few days that I supported her when nobody else would. Not only that, I continued to encourage her & tell her to NOT base her decision on us. This wasn't about us. Not for a minute. You don't know that I left all communication during that week up to her to ensure she did not feel any pressure from us because I did not want in any way to influence her decision. You don't know that I long for continued communication with her as Kendi grows up. You don't know that I think of her every single day.

Adoption is messy & originates from loss. Originally, I was going to respond to you in a private email, but I realized that I may have other readers that were offended or that can offer the perspective of an adult adoptee. Quite frankly, I need you. Our oldest 2 daughters were adopted by my husband, & we got it wrong more than we got it right. I did not have the luxury of the worldwide web in those days for information or any BTDT people. I need the perspective of adult adoptees because I want to navigate this road with our adopted children in a way that keeps their needs & feelings in the light. I'm gonna make mistakes, but I want to learn. There's a lot I don't know, & there's a whole lot I can't understand because I haven't lived it. I mean, I don't know if it's right to say birth parent/family, first parent/family, natural parent/family... What is appropriate? I don't know that I like the term "gotcha day" that wrong? These are just a couple examples of many things I want to know from your perspective.

I don't need you to agree with every decision I make. I don't even need you to like me. But at least know that you don't really know me. You know bits & pieces that I choose to share & you might choose to judge personal decisions or judge me for my faith. That's your prerogative, but here's one thing you can know for sure--My intentions are not to hurt my child by changing his name or be ignorant to the needs of any of my children, including those that have been adopted into our family. I love them fiercely--like lay down my life for them fiercely--but I am fully aware that all the love in the world won't erase the wound of loss. I will continue to give my all, & I welcome the opportunity to connect with & hear from those that know intimately the position of adoptee so that when "my all" falls short, I might learn in order to serve the needs of my children well.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

a few things I take issue with {summer is for reruns}

**This was originally posted in January of this year.  It was read by many & even shared on FB by readers.  I decided to share again based on some recent conversations with friends that are new adoptive parents & others that are beginning the process.  This post is by no means meant to chastise!  It is meant to give people something to think about so that maybe all of us can be intentionally thoughtful with our words not just in the case of adoption, but in all matters concerning the heart & personal lives of others. :)


There are a few things that have come up in conversation lately that I am feeling the need to address, especially after the most recent one I read on FB.  Understand opinions or stance on these comments are not to address things based on my own personal discomfort.  I'm a big girl & can handle/process things, so whatever.  My stance is for my children, who are much smarter than people give them credit for, regardless of age.  They are little people with big feelings, & if they hear what you say, they also then have to process those words.  We openly talk with our children about adoption, but let's face it....little bits of conversations can plant big seeds of confusion in the minds of children.  Just some food for thought.

So, here we go...There are a few statements I take issue with regarding our adopted children:

They are so lucky to have you as parents.  While I understand that people are well-meaning with these words, they couldn't be further from the truth.  Children are lucky if they never have to lose their first families.  While we celebrate children coming into our families because we are excited to have them here, the initial reason they came here is due to loss.  My children are young & happy-go-lucky, but as they get older, they will each begin to process this loss in a different way.  I don't know what that will look like, but statements like, "you're lucky" don't seem very healthy for a child that is processing a piece of their life that may never make a whole lot of sense.  And let's face it, ANY teenager has moments they don't feel real lucky to have you as parents, anyway.

How could a mother ever give up their child?  Unfortunately, this statement has been said one too many times right in front of my children in a very "oh my gosh, they must be the worst human beings in the world to do such a thing" kind of tone.  Wrong.  Each of my children has a different story of how they came to be in our family, but I can tell you that each of them were loved deeply.  So, how?  I really can't answer that because when push comes to shove, I don't know that I'd have the kahunas to make the unselfish, gut-wrenching choices my children's first families made for their children.  So, please, don't ask this question & make my children feel like the mother that gave birth to them must be a terrible person.  It couldn't be further from the truth.

How many real kids do you know, how many are your own?  Nine.  The answer is nine.  They are all real.  None are imaginary.  Each one I would willingly lay my life down for because they are my children.  I hate when my children hear this statement because it could make them question their real place in this family.  They have a real place, they belong, we are family.

Are you done yet?  You can't save them all, you know?  There are millions of children in this world growing up in orphanages without families.  One could argue that a child being taken out of an orphanage & brought into a family is being saved.  I get that.  HOWEVER, our choice to add to this family has come from the desire to have more children.  These children are not charity cases.  The reality is once you get off that plane (or bring that bundle home by car...we've done both), you are parenting.  You are family.  They may not have been birthed from my body, but they were birthed into our family nonetheless.  If anyone thinks they should adopt out of a sense of charity, please don't.  Children should never live with a feeling like they've been saved & should be indebted in gratitude.  I am not a savior; I am a mother.

Mama Bear...signing off.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

acknowledging the wounds {summer is for reruns}

**This post was originally written in September, 2011 & has been one of the most read posts I have written.

They say that hindsight is 20/20. *They* are sooo right. I have now parented two daughters into adulthood & when looking back, I lament that I cannot have a do over with regard to the way I handled some things. It's the old, "I wish I knew then what I know now".

When Kaelee & Kearsten were very little, their first father left the picture. Shortly after Joe & I got married, Joe adopted the girls. Less than a week later, their first father was killed in a plane crash. It was a devastating time, but the girls were so little & it didn't seem to phase them much because they didn't really remember much of him. Over time, we just didn't talk about it & I dealt with my grief. In my young, inexperienced phase of motherhood, I figured why bring it up & cause unnecessary pain for them. That's the thing about wounds. Some of them are visible; some are not. But just because you can't "see" them doesn't mean they aren't there.

Over these last several years, Joe & I have become quite versed in the effects of trauma on children. For Joe in his professional life, this has become a passion as he travels the country speaking to & training educators about working with wounded children based on his years of experience in education working with struggling kiddos. For us in our personal life, it has become a reality.

We've had a big dose of reality in these past couple of weeks. What should have been an exciting, happy time went south...way south.

Let me backtrack for a minute. If you've been around my blog for awhile, you know that Kaya came to us at 2 days old through foster care. After a looong 2+ YEARS, we were thankful to have the opportunity to adopt her. I have never shared much about those 2+ years because I want to be careful to not make my family feel like I'm hanging our undies out for the world to see. However, I also know that for me, one of the reasons I read blogs is to learn, grow, & feel encouraged that life is not perfect for everybody else & that other people understand that life is hard sometimes for all of us.

Life was VERY hard during those couple of years. I think some people have the misconception that since Kaya has been with us since near birth, that she has had it easy. Honestly, when I think back, it overwhelms me. For those 2 years, we had a case plan that dictated what had to be done, & it took a toll on every person involved. Twice a week she had supervised visitation that rarely ended well. At first, I would go to the courtyard to read a book or go to a nearby store to pass the time (visits were in a town an hour away, so going home was not an option), but after several episodes that resulted in a social worker trying to find me to console Kaya, I quit leaving. I planted myself in the waiting room so that they could find me. Again, this is hard to share because there's a lot more to it. At first some people thought it was typical separation anxiety because she had become attached to me. Over time, it became apparent that it was fear. Anyone that thinks that an infant, toddler, or young child does not have a sense of discernment should rethink that stance.

Fast forward to these past couple of weeks. Kaya got a brand new backpack & was all excited about starting preschool with the same teachers K'Tyo had last year. They are wonderful, & I was so excited for her & this new adventure. The teachers visited us at home, we went to open house, & then the first day. We had been through this routine countless times with K'Tyo, but when it came time for Kaya to be dropped off (a teacher comes to the car), Kaya unfastened her buckle, jumped out of her carseat, & began freaking out. She was clutching at my neck, kicking, screaming...holy smokes. Somehow, the teacher managed to get her out, & by the time I picked her up, she was fine & the teachers reported that she did well. However, we saw red flags everywhere. She began waking up crying in the night & ended up in our bed, she began acting out (naughty beyond the "normal naughty"), scared of everything, & the first words out of her mouth in the mornings were, "I'm scared...I don't want to go to preschool" as she became an appendage to me as I was trying to have the normal before school routine with the other kids.

Years ago, I would have drawn on the old "pull yourself up by the bootstraps" mode of operation & figured she would get over it. But knowing what we know now, Joe & I both knew we needed to trust our gut, and our guts were saying that she's not ready. While she can't verbalize where her feelings are coming from or what is triggering her fear, it is very real. I think there are definitely times in life when we do need to pull ourselves up, but I've also learned that life deals us things that are downright ugly. And some of those things show themselves in ways down the road that we need to recognize for what they are...past trauma & hurt that may need some extra TLC & flexibility in the way we do business.

I won't lie. I look forward to the kids going to school. To me, it's an exciting time & I love hearing about their daily adventures. I have never envisioned myself as a homeschooling mom (I totally admire the ones that are). But here I am with a little one that needs to be home, where she feels safe. For how long? I don't know. I do know that finally, over these past few days, she is returning to being herself. I know that we have done the right thing. I know that I will do whatever needs to be done as I take my cues from her & hope that I get it right more than I don't. And I will pray that God heals the places that hurt so that she may find a sense of confidence & security.

I am also thankful that even though I am an imperfect parent with much to learn, Kaelee & Kearsten have turned out to be beautiful young women that are using their gifts to teach children. And while I wish I had helped them to better deal with their losses early on, I am thankful that God works for good in all things, & you can see that He has used their past to influence their present to impact the future.

Update:  Kaya attended preschool this past year & absolutely loved it.  Her confidence level has just blossomed & she is so looking forward to starting kindergarten soon.  I am so, so thankful that we were sensitive to Kaya's needs & to the Lord's nudging because it has proven to be very beneficial to her feelings of security.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

diagnosis: daughter {summer is for reruns}

Have you read about Teresa's beautiful life?  If not, please take a moment to go & read about this sweet angel here. Every child, regardless of what their needs might be or how many more days they may have on this earth, deserves to be loved by a family & given the opportunity to let their light shine.  It's easy to get caught up in "how will this affect ME", but Teresa's life & family are a beautiful reminder that there are no guarantees, but if we live in fear of the hurt, we will miss out on love.  The following post was written shortly after Kemeri came home addressing some of my own fears along the way...

I remember the day that we had our "match" meeting for Kaya. Even though she had been in our family since she was 2 days old, we still had to go through the process to adopt her. As we sat there, we were presented with a stack of papers no less than a foot tall stating this child's possible "issues" down the road as well as current needs. I'm not kidding, the stack of papers was HUGE. Not to sound snarky, but I remember sitting there thinking, "Whatever. You can tell me all kinds of scary stuff, but it doesn't matter. She's our daughter. Period." The bottom line was, we already knew her. We would do anything for her.

I wish I could say that I had the same fierce resolve as we reviewed Kemeri's referral paperwork. But I didn't. I was gripped by fear of the unknowns, so much so that at one point we even thought it best to walk away.

As I have slowly come out of my jetlag fog, I have been thinking a lot about those days of uncertainty & fear. I've also thought about what it might look like if all of my potential special needs or "issues" made their way to paper. Ha, I'm pretty sure I'd have my own fairly tall stack of papers. Lucky for me, there is no such special needs inventory on me to be found on this earth. But my Father in heaven knows Seriously, He looked at my rap sheet of imperfections (that's what I feel like these sweet children get stuck with), but He didn't walk away. He saw promise. He saw worth. He saw hope. He said that I'm chosen, & loved me so much that He laid down His life for me.

It humbles me to say that I had to wrestle with God a lot about what He kept speaking to our heart about this little girl we only knew from the papers in front of us. But He knew her & wanted us to trust Him in that. That one day we would know her, too, beyond the scary words on that paper. And love her fiercely. Do not get me wrong. It is important to know & understand a child's special needs, but knowledge & fear are 2 very different things, & I was allowing fear to rule me. Adoption is a leap of faith, & God was asking us to jump, even though all we knew was what was on paper.

We have now been home for almost 2 weeks, & this is what I know about Kemeri:

  • She has a twinkle in her eye & a laugh that sounds like "Boo" on Monsters, Inc., & it is contagious!

  • She loves eggs, fruit, pizza, goldfish crackers, lollipops, & jellybeans, not necessarily in that order.

  • She likes to go outside, but thinks grass is scary.

  • She likes to play with lots of different toys, including baby dolls.

  • She likes to snuggle with Mommy when it's time to go to sleep, & goes running with excitement when Daddy gets home.

  • She adores her brothers & sisters, & it's so sweet the way she puts her arms up to get a squeezer from them. She does share the occasional push with Kendi.

  • She has zero tolerance for messy hands.

  • She loves to play in the bath, & now that she has a sister to share a bath with, it's even more fun.

  • She thinks our dance parties are silly & fun!

  • She was terribly afraid of the dog, but after 9 days, she lifted the restraining order against Ella & they are now great friends.

  • She is one of the bravest little girls I know.

There's so much more, & each day brings new discoveries about this little girl of ours. We have already had a couple of medical appointments & are scheduled for a sedated MRI on Friday, but when I look out in the other room to watch her play, the thoughts in my mind are not related to the medical diagnosis we were faced with in that initial paperwork. My heart knows that her diagnosis is that she is our daughter that we love, & even more wonderful...She is a daughter of the King.

"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." Psalm 139:13-15